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Eustace – no confidence in SVG’s judicial system

Eustace – no confidence in SVG’s judicial system


Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace has expressed a lack of confidence in this country’s judicial system.{{more}}

He was speaking on the “New Times” radio programme on NICE Radio yesterday about the five Venezuelans against whom charges, including attempted murder and kidnapping in relation to an incident in Union Island on June 3, were dropped last Wednesday.

Customs guard Othneil Whyte drowned during the incident, which also saw a local cop shoot and kill three Venezuelans aboard a ship, reportedly in response to hostile fire.

Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Colin Williams said on a separate radio programme that he had discontinued the case, based on the law.

Eustace read from a foreign newspaper and cited the article as saying that last Wednesday – an agreement was reached between the governments of this country and Venezuela that secured the men’s return to Venezuela.

This after the DPP said he discontinued the case after applying the full code test — a two-stage test that prosecutors apply to cases.

Under the full code test, a case must first satisfy the evidential threshold. And even if that is reached, the case also has to pass the public interest test.

“So, is it that the Venezuelan authorities had already known that an agreement was reached?” Eustace said.

Or had the government already communicated that the case will be nolle prosequi (discontinued) before? Eustace asked.

That is a question that needs to be answered and the terms of the alleged agreement made public, the leader of the opposition said.

But Eustace further said that the number of cases that had been discontinued within recent years had increased.

“We have had so many cases nolle prosequi over the years, something that you have hardly heard before in St Vincent and the Grenadines, it is frequently used today,” he said.

He said that there was a lot of talk about the judicial system and the question of confidence.

“There is a lot of talk about that in St Vincent and the Grenadines in recent years and this is going to add to it,” Eustace said, adding that the authorities could not afford to undermine the public’s confidence in the judiciary.

“We can’t have our people wondering from day to day what the system is going to do,” he said.

He explained that the payment measures and selection of justices from anywhere within the Commonwealth were put in place at the Caribbean Court of Justice to deal with the issue of political interference.

Eustace said it has always been the position of his New Democratic Party that the CCJ was not free of political interference and he said that he believed that the same was applicable to the lower courts as well.

“Too many people complain,” he said.

He urged members of the public to speak out on issues of injustice.

“It is crucial to our development,” he said. (DD)